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Revealed: Where offshore companies splash their cash in Tower Hamlets

PUBLISHED: 15:08 14 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:08 14 November 2017

Offshore companies own offices, flats and swathes of land in Tower Hamlets - including the Black Eagle Brewery, formerly Truman's Brewery in Spitalfields. Picture: Julian Woodford

Offshore companies own offices, flats and swathes of land in Tower Hamlets - including the Black Eagle Brewery, formerly Truman's Brewery in Spitalfields. Picture: Julian Woodford

Archant

Offshore companies have snapped up at least £1billion worth of property in east London.

Newly-released data from the Land Registry reveal foreign firms bought more than just flats and houses in deals shrouded in secrecy, but swathes of land, airspace and even a former brewery in Spitalfields.

It reveals a property portfolio worth at least £1bn is stashed away in an offshore empire covering Tower Hamlets, Newham and Barking and Dagenham.

But sale prices are not included on more than half the listings, meaning the actual figure is likely far higher.

The data’s release came the week ministers were warned Britain and its territories had become “the place of choice” for those looking to funnel away funds and avoid tax.

Many companies are registered in homegrown tax havens including the Isle of Man, British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Jersey.

While foreign companies purchasing property in the UK is completely legal, transparency campaigners argue these firms do not have to reveal their owners and prevent much-needed taxes from reaching public services.

More than 2,000 properties in Tower Hamlets, costing more than £1bn, were bought by firms registered offshore over the last two decades, according to the Land Registry data.

The borough’s properties were rich pickings for BVI-registered firms, who were named on 638 sales, followed by Jersey (325 sales) and Ireland (169).

The biggest purchases in Tower Hamlets were:

• Land at Churchill Place in Canary Wharf, home to big banks American Express, Barclays and Credit Suisse (£257million).

• An office block in Alie Street, Whitechapel (£62m).

• Offices and flats along Marsh Wall, Canary Wharf (£43m).

One company registered in Ireland, Cashalstone Developments Ltd, bought nearly 80 flats at the East End Mission building in Commercial Road, Limehouse, paying prices from £184,000 each.

Meanwhile Cyprus firm Vendereso Corporation spent an undisclosed sum on 44 parking spaces around Forge Square on the Isle of Dogs.

Plans to privatise the Land Registry were scrapped last year amid outcry the move would hide public data from public scrutiny.


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